Sunday, December 20, 2020

The old saw mill in the woods

 If 2020 has brought something good, it is that I have been forced to find new forms of entertainment. The things I used to do are no longer feasible, and instead the dogs and I have been exploring the woods in my area. 

Sweden is huge and sparsely populated and you can walk around for a long time without meeting anyone. (Heck, some days you can drive for a long time without meeting another car.) For a Floridian the idea of venturing off the asphalt may sound terrifying, but we don't have any really dangerous animals, and if you walk past a dilapidated building it's probably just as empty as it looks.

The other day, we came across this. I don't know if it's still used for something, I hope it is, and it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

New facemask day, lol!

When I lived in Florida I once accidentally entered my bank without taking off my sunglasses. A security guard appeared in like half a second, asking me to rectify the situation. I apparently look enough like a bankrobber to make getting my whole face and eyes caught on camera vital. Hmm...

Anyway, 2020 changed all that. We don't have a mask mandate in Sweden - our government still doubts the good a mask can do and claim wearing them will just make Swedes fidget with their faces. I guess they know something the rest of the world doesn't... *cough* But from what I hear people in the USA wear them all the time everywhere.

A year ago you couldn't enter businesses with your face covered. Now you can't enter without having your face covered. Go figure...

I've been thinking of getting some cool washable cloth masks. And when I purchased a new winter coat, the company included a complimentary face mask.

I appreciate the thought, but it isn't exactly my style. πŸ˜†

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Happy Halloween. Just a little early.

2020 won't be a year for trick-or-treating. Not a year for knocking on people's doors. I'm still putting some decorations up, and we're preparing for an event at my local cat rescue. It will be a ghost path through the woods, so it's outdoors and people can keep their distance to each other. Not the same as trick-or-treating, but a reasonable substitute.

One of my pumpkin vines gave a mini pumpkin. They're called "Baby Boo" and SO cute! I gave it to the dragon who sleeps in my bookshelf. If ze ever wakes up, the pumpkin will be a great snack!

Have a safe and wonderful holiday when it arrives. Live Long and Prosper! (Okay, maybe a little corny, but sounds cooler than saying "I hope you don't catch the virus.")

Monday, October 5, 2020

Before and afters

Swedish cottages and houses - and Sweden overall - look very different from large parts of the USA, so I wanted to share some photos from the vacation home I just started renting. It's off-grid, so electricity comes from a solar power with a battery bank. It works well, but is also a good lesson in preserving energy. Water comes from a well.

I found some mentions of the property on a historical site. It's mentioned in the 1830s, and at that time at least six people lived in the house. Probably more, because one is mentioned as "with family." The house is tiny! It was used as a year-round home until 1936.

The very first mention found is from 1696, but at that point it was probably another building.

I painted the kitchen. This is before...

...and after.

The dogs love the living room sofa. 

One of the previous tenant built this sauna. By hand. How awesome is that!

Fall sunset on the way down from the mountain. 

I dream of spring!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Dreams coming to fruition

Everyone has dreams, visions, and fantasies, but they differ wildly between us. The question is - which are worth turning into goals? What do you really want?

One of my dreams for many years has been a summer house. Not a big and flashy thing, but a small, red cottage in the woods. Close to a lake would be good, but still remote enough for the dogs to be able to run around, and far enough away to grant peace and quiet to read and write. With a decent road to it, so it's possible to drive there.

Sweden is a country where small red cottages are in abundance. They're everywhere. If you drive on a Swedish road, any Swedish road, you will see many. They even line the streets of many towns. 

This photo is typical us. I found it online and can't tell you which town it's from, because so many look just like this. (There's an explanation to why houses in this country tend to be red, but I'll tell you that story another day.)

Unfortunately, wanting one is genetically programmed in Swedes, and they're quite expensive. I've looked for one to buy ever since I moved back here, and they're more expensive than my house.

This year I've doubted my plan. At this point in time I may not be able to handle another house. But, if I found one to rent I wouldn't have to worry about roofs, chimneys, or other similar things an owner has to deal with.

I started browsing listings online, and at first it seemed hopeless. Most people rent their cottages out on a weekly basis, and I wanted a long-term lease. Something that would be like mine, even though it wasn't mine. 

Then, a cottage with annual rent showed up in the feed.

I went to see it yesterday, and it is perfect. It's a mile or so into the woods - but there's a drivable road to it. Bigger than I expected, but not too big. It's surrounded by beautiful nature where the dogs and I will be able to stroll around. Reasonable annual rent and really nice owners.

Even better: there is a lake nearby, and the owners have a small rowboat I'm welcome to use. The dogs will be able to go for a swim if they want to. And funny enough, great cell phone reception. 

I'll get access to it in October when the current tenant has moved out, so I will have some time to get everything in order before winter comes and my car won't be able to get there. (A previous tenant lived there year round and purchased a tractor to get to and from the cottage, but I will settle for the snow-free months for now, lol.)

I'm really excited about this. I can almost smell the forest. And, I can't wait to take my telescope out there!  I see more stars from my home in Sweden than I did in Bradenton. I bet there will be even more visible at the cottage where there aren't any city lights nearby. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

What a strange year this has been...

2020 has been long and strange, and it is far from over. Besides the obvious with COVID-19, hurricane season is just getting going, with two systems entering the Gulf at once. And, there's a US election coming up in just a couple of months. 

After Trump saying he isn't sure he'll leave the White House willingly even if he loses, attempting to not have an election but just remaining without a vote, talking about his "third term," and sabotaging the USPS to prevent people from voting, I'm both worried and curious to see what will actually happen. I've heard quite a few analysts on the news saying the USA is teetering on the edge of dictatorship. I am concerned they may be right.

Looking away from the big picture, I've been working, and enjoying time with my pets. I'm a very lucky lady, being surrounded by so much furry love. I don't think I have all that many - just two dogs and two cats - but turns out, people assume all animals in this village belongs to me. 

"Why does your dog howl so much? Can you stop it from howling so much?"

"That's not my dog. It lives over there."

"Oh, you have a new cat? You should keep it indoors."

"Yeah, that's not my cat."

Kind of funny, actually. 

At work, my current project is:

Cats and dogs in space! It will be a virtual night to remember in November. Check out for information on how you can join. 

I'm also working on Conscripted - or should be - but there's mostly gardening in my head. I have a big yard, so one area has the time to get out of hand while I'm working on another. I've been clearing off a portion that used to be shrubs and nettles, trying to make it more friendly and accessible. (I know, nettles are great for insects, but there's an entire forest adjacent to my back yard, so I don't feel too bad about domesticating my little portion.)

I'll try to come back with a more coherent update soon. I just realized I haven't posted here for a long time, and I should let people know I'm okay. :-) 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

That's not what "leave me alone" means...

There's a super annoying guy in my village. I've been trying to be patient with him - he has some form of brain damage - but at this point in time, my patience is wearing thin. I keep telling him to leave me alone, but I'm starting to think he doesn't know what it means.

It all started when I got a friends request on Facebook from someone in my village. I accepted and forgot about it. Then, he started sending long, rambling messages, and I felt like this was going in a direction I wasn't comfortable with, so I responded that I am a very busy person and I want to be left alone.

He kept sending messages, I ignored them, and every now and then he sent a message asking why I wasn't responding.

The first time, I explained how my life works, that I can't be the friend he's looking for, and that I want him to leave me alone.

He kept writing, I kept ignoring him, and he kept asking why I wasn't answering. Every time I wrote back, "I've have asked you to leave me alone. Please leave me alone."

I finally blocked him on Facebook.

He started showing up at my office, tried to make me invite him over for Christmas, asked me to come over and clean his windows, follows me around the stores, and lately he has started showing up at my house.

He also keeps trying to get to walk my dogs. They're too strong and wild for him - he'd lose them in about five seconds. It's not happening.

It's driving me crazy.

What do you do when a person doesn't understand "leave me alone" - no matter how many times you say/write it? How do you get rid of them?

I've had people follow me around the village before, like that guy a couple of years ago who came to my office every day, but my home is MY space. I need people to accept that.

I shouldn't yell at him, because if he doesn't have the mental capacity to understand "leave me alone" he won't understand the words shouted at him any better, but I'm going to snap soon and yell anyway.

I don't want to be his friend. I don't want him in my life. That sounds really mean in writing, but it's still true.

How would you handle this?

March had 330 days...

I saw a meme on Facebook about 2020. It's an unusual leap year: February had 29 days, March around 330, and April is five years long. Completely true - and I guess it proves that time is relative.

Even though the months are very long, I haven't been here on my blog for some time. My mom died from the virus a couple of weeks ago. She was in an assisted living facility, and they closed them to visitors the day before she fell ill. So when the nurse called to tell me, they couldn't let me come visit her. I thought it would be possible to suit up in something and be with your loved ones the last few days, at least hold her hand and let her hear my voice, but that was a firm no.

I also thought they'd take the elderly to the hospital if they fell ill, but that was in the old world. In this new and improved (???) world, elderly persons get to stay where they are. If they're strong enough to make it, they make it.

We're not having a funeral at this point in time - in Sweden you're still allowed to have groups up to 50 people, but I will not risk making this worse. Just imagine putting all remaining relatives in the same room... Not happening. There's a memorial area by mom's favorite church in her home village, and when summer comes we'll spread her ashes there. It will be outside, and maybe by then the situation will have calmed down enough for people to be able to meet.

It's surreal. I haven't even been able to go to the facility to gather her things.

In media, there are many discussions about how Sweden has chosen to handle the virus. We haven't had a major lockdown; just guidelines for social distancing. Some international media make it sound like life here goes on as usual - that is not true - but we have fewer restrictions than many others.

I think we've been right about some things - you can only quarantine people for so long, and it isn't possible to shut a society down for as long as it will take for this to blow over.

I also think we've been wrong about some things - our health officials have taken many international findings with a shrug and refused to acknowledge information until it was too late. For instance, that asymptomatic persons can be carriers and infect others.

Many try to compare other nations with the "Swedish Model." That is unfair to leaders all over the world - our societies, habits, and peoples are so different at the best of times. In Sweden, we have a certain amount of faith in our leaders, and we're fairly good at following advice from the authorities. They've told us it's best to stay a couple of meters apart, and many of us practically self-quarantine. Stores offer hand sanitizer and gloves at the entrances, and have marked out appropriate distances on the floor. Without being ordered to do so.

How are things going where you live? Are you worried about society reopening? Looking forward to it? Tell us all about it!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Apparently, I have shit for brains. Or so I've been told, lol.

I know arguing with people online is pointless, but I still sometimes fall for the temptation to try to explain. The person on the other side may be unwilling to understand, but I hope someone else will be helped.  

Yesterday, I gave up on explaining after being informed that I have shit for brains. That may be so, but the only way we currently have to contain the spread of Covid-19 is for people to limit interactions and stop traveling.

Preventing Americans from gallivanting off to neighboring nations is not done because of some form of reverse racism or to make Trump look bad - it's to stop the spread of a potentially lethal pandemic.

Seriously, during my lifetime we have never had closed borders between Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The mere idea would have been preposterous. Today, it's a fact. It doesn't mean that Finns no longer like Swedes or that Swedes and Norwegians have developed a sudden quarrel - it means that people need to stay put.

Now when that's settled... ;-)

No matter what your favorite leader says, this situation will not be resolved in two weeks, or by the end of April. Even if the virus were to "suddenly go away" it's likely to come back, because history shows us that pandemics tend to come in waves. The Spanish Flu for instance affected people on and off for three years.

No matter where you are right now, or whether you're under a shelter-in-place order or just told to practice a physical distancing to other people, try to find a mindset where you can ride this out long-term.

Absolutely hope for a vaccine, but be aware that developing vaccines is a lengthy process. (Yes, we get flu vaccines quickly, but this isn't a flu.) I don't think we'll see a vaccine this year. Maybe in 2021.

Long before that, I think and hope we'll see antiviral remedies that can help the people who fall really ill. I also think and hope we will have a convenient way to test if people already had the infection.

I personally don't think this is a type of disease where we will develop a long-term immunity, but I'm a science fiction writer and not a virologist, so what I think may not be relevant. Even if I'm right, people might be immune for at least a couple of years.

That means, if we can test to see if people already had the virus, a bunch of us may be able to go back to work - keep society going and care for those still at risk.

It is definitely tempting to call for shelter-at-home orders and quarantines - there have been times during the past few weeks where I have longed for being ordered to stay at home, because it would make it easier for me to justify my decision to do so. Though, it isn't feasible to keep entire populations locked in their homes for six months or a year. A couple of weeks, sure, but you have to know that the virus will still be out there, so life won't return to normal just like that.

This sounds like doom and gloom in writing, but at this point in time, I think realistic expectations will help all of us cope with what's ahead. We're clever beings, we can adapt and get through this!

And, there's always this great video from Lady Flufferton!

Monday, March 23, 2020

I am concerned about my country

Don't get me wrong - at a time like this it's prudent to be concerned for the whole world, but Sweden and our scientists seem to have caught another virus that might be just as dangerous as Covid-19: Hubris.

All along, they've been saying that younger persons don't really have to worry. People under the age of 70 should be cautious and not visit older relatives, because older people must be protected, but everyone else will get a "really mild illness."

Reports have streamed in from all over the world, saying that while it's mostly older people who die, younger people also require intensive care. We're talking about spending three weeks in a respirator and emerging without a lung.

Sweden is still going, "No, everyone who isn't older will get a really mild illness."

Right now, about half of persons who require hospitalization because of Covid-19 in Sweden are younger. Experts are saying it's a fluke, and these numbers will change.

Meanwhile, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of US cases from February 12 to March 16 shows 38% of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55.

French health ministry official JΓ©rome Salomon says half of the 300 to 400 coronavirus patients treated in intensive care units in Paris are younger than 65.

Italian media has reported numbers of around 35% of people in Intensive Care being under 65.

Half of the ICU patients in the Netherlands are younger than 50.

But in Sweden, younger people are apparently invincible. At least if you're to believe health officials.

(They've also said children couldn't be affected, and several weeks ago we had "reached the peak" and cases would start to go down. Both these things were also false.)

I think there is a risk in understating the consequences for younger persons. Doing so makes us careless. And once the average person sees that the authorities were wrong - again - and our statistics follow those of other nations, the public will lose faith and stop listening.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Please be kind and show respect!

Right now, people all over the world are struggling. Many are afraid, if not for themselves, for their loved ones. Many worry about the future. Will they have jobs? With so many industries affected, will they be able to support their families?

With all this worry going around, try to think of the people around you.

I meet so many people who say all this is hysteria or panic. If you feel that way, that is also a valid emotion - and it might be a reaction to what's happening - but you don't have to tell every other person you meet that they are hysterical.

Your feelings are valid, and theirs are valid too. Please respect that. People who are worried for their future or their loved ones have good reason for that, and they won't worry less because you tell them your feelings on "worldwide panic."

I also encounter many who don't care, because there's a good chance the disease won't make them very sick.

If that's you, please stop gloating about your good health. Put it to use instead. I bet there's someone physically close to you who doesn't have the fortune of good health and might need help with going to the store.

The past few days have held some intense discussions with people who refuse to stay home, because they're just "a little sick." If you're just a little sick, staying home can be boring, I get it. But the people you meet when you go shopping, hang out at the animal shelters, or whatever it is you want to do, might be at risk. Going there can mean sentencing another person to death.

Stay home until you feel well, even if you're convinced you only have a cold. Because, passing your cold to someone can lower their resistance to infection.

Follow your local authorities' advice and instructions.

Some people - like me - can work from home. It doesn't matter where we are physically, and that's a huge privilege at a time like this.

A lot of people can't do this. Nurses and doctors are obvious, but also the people who empty your trash, the mail carrier, the truck drivers who make sure goods will be delivered to stores, all the people who put items on shelves and work cash registers... The list is nearly endless.

They are worried too. The person in the grocery store may have to encounter a thousand people before going home to a loved one who is elderly or has a pre-existing condition. Please be kind.

It isn't their fault if the item you're looking for isn't available. It isn't their fault if you have to stand in line. Thank them for the job they do. Be kind, and try not to take your frustration out on them. It can make a world of difference to someone who's struggling with getting through the day.

These things should be self-evident, but I guess they're not.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Harry Potter, Illustrated

I have a confession to make, and it is completely unrelated to viruses and the state of the world. It is a horrible thing for a book nerd such as myself: I don't have the Harry Potter books.

I've been meaning to buy them, but never got around to it.

I've read them, but I borrowed them and never bought them.

Looking around online, I saw that there's an illustrated version. Currently, only the first four books are available and they're quite pricey, so I decided to buy one to see if I'd like it. I got it yesterday, but didn't really have time to look.

Unpacking it this morning made me go "Ooooh!"

It's amazing. It's gorgeous - almost every page is decorated. It's huge, like a magical book in a fairy tale.

I hope all of the books will be available in this format at some point in the future, and that the whole collection will be in my shelf. :-)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Understanding "the curve" and why the number of infections is important

I heard some statements today that were weird to me. Like, "The Italian healthcare system must be bad if they can't take care of their people." And, "How can the Italian healthcare system not be equipped to deal with emergencies." Then I realized that people have faith in their system and never had to think about how it works.

This is the thing; all healthcare systems around the world are dimensioned for handling a normal influx of patients with a mix of illnesses.

There is a finite amount of hospital beds, equipment, doctors, and nurses. Many western countries have 4 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants. That is 0.4%. The average for the USA is lower. On any given day, most of these spaces will be occupied by people with broken bones, cancers, heart issues, respiratory issues, child births, children with tummy aches, and so on.

Let's go with Manatee County in Florida where I used to live as an example. There's Blake Medical Center with 383 beds, Manatee Memorial with 319 beds, and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center with 120 beds. (There might be some other facility I've forgotten about, but these are the big ones.)

That adds up to 822 beds. The population of Manatee County is roughly 385,600. That means 0.2% of the population can be hospitalized at the same time - and at that point, the hospitals are at capacity. (I spent many nights waiting with Mike at Blake Medical Center, because they didn't have a spot for him, so they are full from time to time.)

Now, imagine that your already full hospital with 383 beds gets another 1,000 patients with the same medical issue at the same time. There's no way to make room for them. Unfortunately, all the other hospitals in the area have the same issue. And, your staff is specialized in pediatrics, oncology, rheumatology, and other things - none of which is infectious diseases.

This is a problem with no solution - it's like trying to pour a gallon of milk into a quart size jug.

This is what has happened in Italy, and it will happen to my country and to your country if we can't "flatten the curve." That really means spreading the cases out over more time. The same amount of people fall ill, but not at exactly the same time. Instead of getting 10,000 persons over the span of two weeks you may get them over a span of three months, giving the healthcare system a chance to help everyone.

To hoard or not to hoard

My country has a Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB in Swedish). They work with issues concerning civil protection, public safety, and so on. For years, they've been trying to tell people that we need to be prepared, that we are responsible for being able to look after ourselves, and that everyone should have a contingency plan for at least a week in case something happens.

Up until now, they've had a hard time getting traction. They've sent out brochures to all Swedish households. They created a TV series, like a reality show, with a simulated crisis. They sent out lists of what to think of what to keep in the house, how to rotate groceries so your supplies are edible in a time of crisis, and so on. 

Most people went "Meh, whatever." 

Right now, even we Swedes have noticed supply chains may be shut down in a time of crisis. We're having to wait for our purchases from China, and some things are sold out in the stores. I think it triggered a collective hoarding instinct where everyone realized we may need supplies for a two-week period.

Last night on TV, a reporter called a representative from this agency to talk about the hoarding. I'm pretty sure the angle was supposed to be that people shouldn't hoard, but it became pretty funny.

The woman from MSB said, "We want people to be prepared. We've been trying to make everyone stock up for years."

Journalist: "But store shelves are getting empty. Doesn't this worry you?"

"They will be restocked."

"Not hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is out."

"People can use soap and water."

"But, aren't you worried about permanent shortages and delivery problems?"

"Not at this time. People may not get exactly the brands they're used to eating, but we don't predict a shortage of food."

And so it went. This probably wasn't as funny as it seemed to me, but her attitude was so refreshing. 

Have you stocked up on anything? Do you think you will need to?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

That's pretty funny, for real!

The other day, I blogged about the gap between self-insight and lack of knowledge. Sometimes it becomes pretty funny. This popped up in my news feed, and I'm assuming it isn't a Photoshop. 

In a way, it's comforting that stuff like this happens to everyone. 

A less hilarious level of ignorance is: people seem convinced that if they believe they're infected with the COVID19 virus, they should go to the ER. 

Don't do that. An emergency room is crammed with people who are sick or hurt for other reasons, and going in there will almost guarantee that you spread the disease to someone with a compromised immune system who might die.

If do you need urgent medical care, call before going and follow their instructions. That way, healthcare professionals can help you in the best way possible without risking themselves or anyone else.

We can do this! 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Coming soon: Conscripted

Conscripted is turning into a short novel and will be ready soon. I haven't set a date yet, but my goal is to have it available before summer.

Since my hobby is kidnapping people and sending them to space, it will start something like this...

“I’m not going.”

Viola stared at the uniformed man outside her door come to give her wonderful news. Not.

Yes, she was aware of her society being on the brink of war.

No, she did not feel that this related to her in any way.

War and peace were someone else’s problems. There were people paid to deal with all this. The United Planetary Systems might be a loose organization, but it was an organization with a fleet of starships, and if someone else wanted a piece of the action, whatever the action might be, professionals should take care of it.

Not her.

The man didn’t even blink.

“You have the option to cooperate of your own free will. Pack what you need and come with me right now.”

“I’m not going.”

Repeating the words didn’t faze him. He spoke into his collar.

“I will require an extraction team.”

“What? You require a what?”

She tried to pull the door closed, as if that could prevent them from just bringing her. He said, “It really is easier for you to come willingly, but it’s the same to me.”

His story about ten thousand civilians with suitable skills being drafted seemed preposterous. She was good with electronics and math. So were androids, and they would be much more useful on a starship.

“It’s not what you know, it’s what you have the potential to be.”

Had he read her mind? It didn’t seem likely, but in this day and age, who knew.

“That makes no sense.”

A shadow of a smile tugged at his lips.

“It doesn’t have to make sense right now. You will learn on the ship.”

“This is what all the surveys were about.”

There had been a lot of them, all sounding official, claiming to chart everything from government websites to woodland usage, and the statistical questions had seemed weirder and weirder.

Gender, household size, do you like aliens?

Income bracket, highest education, would you fight to defend your family/home/planet?

Race, type of employment, are you interested in space exploration?

On their own, the questions seemed silly, but innocent. She had assumed they were to ascertain if people paid attention. Thinking back, the statistical questions must have been the real ones.

“I think I need to sit down.”

He looked suspicious, but she didn’t feel so good all of a sudden. Her heart raced and her legs wanted to fold. She took a step backwards and sat down on the little stool in the hall, the one where she sat while tying her shoes in winter.

Would she ever experience a winter again?

Would she ever see her home again?

“Are you okay?”

She couldn’t look up to meet his eyes.

“I don’t know.”

“The extraction team will be able to sedate you. You’ll be there before you know what happened.”

What is wrong with you? Anything would be preferable to following a person with so little empathy. She folded her hands on her lap to keep them from shaking.

“Okay, I’ll come with you. Let me go pack a bag.”

“You’re going to run out the back, aren’t you?”

COVID19, common myths, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect

During the past week, I've been increasingly surprised and concerned about people's attitudes to the new Corona Virus. Don't panic, of course don't panic, but take it seriously. 

Quarantined areas in northern Italy March 8, 2020
16 million people in Italy aren't quarantined because it's a fun thing to do. They're in quarantine to prevent further spread of the virus.

Some people apparently don't understand how viruses work at all. As in, "If you don't intend to meet someone who is affected, you can't get it." A man explained this to me in great detail the other day. His being right would make life a lot easier, unfortunately that's not how diseases work.

A lot of people say it's a cold or a flu. That's not true. Yes, symptoms resemble a flu, but the virus is different. And, it's so new that we don't know a lot about it.

I didn't think that particular misunderstanding would be all that important, until I watched the news during the weekend and the anchor kept talking about the flu vaccine. Her reasoning was that if you take the flu vaccine and still get the flu, you normally get less sick than you would without the vaccine. Thus, the same must be true for Covid 19.

The doctor in the studio kept pointing out that this isn't true at all since the Corona virus isn't a flu and taking a flu vaccine won't affect our immune response to it, but she concluded with "Great, I'll go get the vaccine."

Speaking of vaccines, many seem to think there will be a vaccine any day. Developing a vaccine to something brand new like this will take time. I personally doubt we'll see one in 2020. We - the worldwide community - need to work together to keep this at bay, so the scientists have time to do their thing.

Other comments show both ignorance and a callousness to others' suffering that's plain terrifying.

Besides this person having all their facts wrong, they apparently think 20% of people affected will die, and that's not a big deal. In fact, it's pretty funny.

I wrote a response, explaining, and it was promptly deleted by the person owning the page. 

Seriously people: The objective right now is to limit the spread, so society - and health care systems around the world - have time to prepare, and so we have time to learn about the disease.

Persons not believing it's real will be a problem in preventing it from spreading.

This leads to an interesting side track: have you ever wondered why the most clueless people are also the most stubborn? 

It's basically a cognitive bias where people know too little about something to realize they don't know. This is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

An 1999 article from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states, "People who lack the knowledge or wisdom to perform well are often unaware of this fact. We attribute this lack of awareness to a deficit in metacognitive skill. That is, the same incompetence that leads them to make wrong choices also deprives them of the savvy necessary to recognize competence, be it their own or anyone else’s."

Naturally, this has a massive impact on decision making. 

In daily life, the phenomenon can be annoying, but rarely dangerous. (Think mansplaining. Many years ago I heard a friend - male - explain to another friend - female - where her house was, even though he was unable to find it when trying to visit. She tried to tell him that you go up the hill and turn right, and he kept telling her that her house is to the left.)

At a time like this, people who are dead certain they're right and everyone else is wrong can cause a lot of trouble for everyone else, because they're unlikely to follow instructions.

I don't know how to remedy this, since it seems hard to get through with actual information, but I guess we'll have to keep trying.

And while we wait to see where all this will go, follow any and all advice from the CDC. We'll be okay, but we need to meet this with clear minds and awareness.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Please stop hoarding stuff you don't need

You don't need a surgical mask to protect yourself from the Corona virus. They don't provide particularly good protection, and doctors, veterinarians, and nurses need surgical masks to protect their patients.

If you've stolen something like this from a
hospital, you're risking people's lives.
Give them back!
Surgical masks are designed to prevent a person from infecting others. This is super important during surgeries and when handling patients with compromised immune systems.

Right now, reports are coming in about people stealing surgical masks from hospitals. Clinics can't buy more, because they're out of stock everywhere. Veterinarians have to reschedule surgeries to make the masks they have last through emergencies.

This is not okay. We all need to cooperate.

There are other types of masks designed to filter out at least 95% of very small particles. The public is currently not advised to use these - they can cause other problems, but if you're interested in learning more, there's a good resource here.

I think hoarding during times of potential crisis is a survival mechanism. We feel that we're doing something, we're affecting our own destiny, taking steps to protect ourselves. That's fine, but not to the extent where people who really need something can't get it.

One of my friends took this at Target the other day. (I was naughty - I didn't ask if I can use her photo, I just took it. Bad Maria, bad bad Maria.) Similar sights meet people all over the world.

I've read pleas for help from women who are out of sanitary pads and can't find any in the stores, and someone who gave an elderly man her toilet paper, because she felt so bad for him when there wasn't any to buy.

I'm not saying not to be prepared - my government usually urges everyone to have enough supplies on hand to get by for one week and that recommendation stands - but do you really need 300 rolls of toilet paper or four gallons of hand sanitizer?

If you feel that you need to do something and you're just itching to prepare, make a list of how much you actually go through.

Make a plan of what you need for say a week, or two weeks. You can write a list of what you, your family, and your pets would need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. How much shampoo, cleaning products, toilet paper, and similar you really need. Add things you like to eat - if there is an actual crisis, whether it's a hurricane or you're in quarantine in your house, you will feel happier if you have things you like.

Just writing the list is likely to make you feel better, and when you do go to stock up on your "hurricane supplies" you'll get the things you actually need. Instead of being at home with 300 rolls of toilet paper and no food, while someone else has to wipe their behind with crinkled up newspaper...

And, as always, don't just take my word or anyone else's: read and follow the recommendations from the CDC. We'll be okay, but we'll be more okay if we work together!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Don't Panic - COVID19

Right now, people all around the world have something in common: we all watch and discuss the development of the Novel Coronavirus 19 development. Everyone and their pets have opinions. Some are panicking, others feel it's like worrying about a common cold.

As a science fiction writer, I'm obviously an expert on viruses. (LOL!)

First and most important, like Douglas Adams said: Don't Panic!

Panicking rarely leads to good results, whether a situation is real or imagined.

Now when we have that out of the way...

Covid 19 is not a common cold, or even a flu. I think people make this comparison because the symptoms resemble a cold or a flu, but that's like comparing brain cancer to a hangover because both can give you a headache. A symptom is not the same thing as the disease causing it.

1. Understanding the problem

  • Covid 19 is a new virus, which makes it highly unlikely that any human is immune
  • The incubation time varies between two and 14 days, so people can go around for a long time without knowing they're infected
  • Symptoms vary from virtually nothing to extremely sick
  • People who don't show symptoms can spread the disease, but we still don't know to what degree

2. What does this mean for me?

During the past week or so, I've heard a LOT of people claim Covid 19 isn't a threat to society because the death rates are fairly low. As this is written, Italy has the highest recorded death rates with around 4.5% and WHO estimates an average death rate of 3.4%.

First of all, the death rate isn't the only thing that determines whether an outbreak will cause disruptions in daily life. One of the problems with a brand new disease is that a lot of people will be sick at the same time.

How many will be infected in a major outbreak depends on the type of community and precautions taken, and there will be differences between professions and lifestyles. Let's assume an average of 25%, just so we have a number for the examples.

That would mean 1 out of 4 police cars are now standing still. 1 out of 4 firefighters are sick and can't help you if there's a fire. 1 out of 4 EMTs won't be there for emergencies. 1 out of 4 truck drivers aren't delivering goods, and 1 out of 4 farmers aren't producing food.

The hospitals would be bogged down with people in need of help, because the healthcare system isn't constructed for so many people being sick at the same time.

Going back to the death rate, imagine that your community has 50,000 inhabitants. 25% infected would be 12,500 people. The actual death rate will vary depending on demographics, but if we look at the 3.4% so many say is no big deal, 3.4% of 12,500 is 425. That is a huge loss for a community, and a lot to handle for individuals and society as a whole.

This is why it's important to stop the outbreak before it grows any further.

3. What should we do?

Don't Panic!

Pay attention to what actual representatives from the CDC or similar organizations in your country are saying. That is not the same thing as listening to your friends on Facebook, listening to a politician, or listening to the president. 

Which leads me to:

  • Democrats are not to blame for the Coronavirus
  • There is no evidence that the disease will "just go away" as April approaches
  • It is not okay to go to work as usual if you are infected.
  • The CDC are competent and a good source for information

Wash your hands, take reasonable precautions, and use common sense.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Quantum is here!

Quantum is a novella that slumbered in my computer for many years. I pondered whether to expand on it, but never got around to doing so, and I finally realized that it doesn't do any good sitting in my laptop. If people have the chance to read it, someone might find it entertaining. :-)


Leaving work early seems like an excellent idea, until a dimensional rift appears right in front of Alice's car and a semi-trailer truck pushes her into it. A moment later, she’s in an unfamiliar environment filled with hovering robots, people in uniforms, assigned friends, and no way to return to her own world.

The only possible upside is handsome ship’s captain: Lewis. He does his best to care for the lost young woman and helps her feel at home. Unfortunately, the universe can be fickle, and Alice is about to learn how it really works, on the quantum level.

It is available now, and you can read an excerpt on Amazon below!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Need help finding these books

There are three books I read as a child that I would love to read again - or at least have in the bookshelf - and I can't remember their names, or who wrote them. It's driving me crazy.

Do you recognize any of these descriptions?

1. There's a city, and the residents keep it moving at all times. There's a team of people who go ahead of it, scout the terrain, and build a rail-type system for it to move on, and another team who goes behind it to tear the rail up, so it can be used again. The sun looks strange to them, it isn't round, and the people who go ahead - or work behind it - also start to look strange after being out there for a while. Finally, they've crossed the entire continent and reach the ocean, and it turns out the city's generator creates a force field that distorts their perception of reality.

2. The people are settlers on an alien planet. There is a mountain that must not be climbed, and a silvery "guardian" that no one has seen for a long, long time. One day a boy climbs the mountain and meets the guardian, and it turns out to be a robot who cares for a woman living on the mountain. That's all I remember.

3. It was a series of books about a girl. I think she lives in an idyllic place when the story begins, but things happen and she ends up traveling the world. She crosses a desert and an ocean and at one time I think she has an instrument and plays at an inn for food. She picks up tiny creatures along the way, there's a crab or worm or something that lives in a fold of her dress, and a wisp. The cover of one of the books I had about her was blue, showing a blonde young woman in a boat.

Great descriptions, right? Rudimentary remnants of memories, lol. Do you recognize anything?

UPDATE: I found them, with help from people on Librarything.

1: Inverted World by Christopher Priest
2: The Guardian of Isis by Monica Hughes
3: The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is not just Friday - which is always awesome - it is also Valentine's Day, and release day for Kidnapped and its companion book Courage and Retribution. What a day, right! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know some people who have a hard time with Valentine's, because they feel lonely. "No one buys me flowers." One of my friends said Valentine's feels like a scorn, and it's the worst day of the year.

To me, that's not what it's about. To me, it's a great day to be thankful for the people in my life, and my pets. And, to take the opportunity to spoil myself.

It sounds trite to say that life becomes what we do with it, but it's true. :-)

And here we should have a logical connection into talking about Kidnapped, but I got nothing, so let's just plunge in.

I watched a lot of Better of Ted when I wrote that book. It was my favorite TV show at the moment, and yes, "my" Veronica is inspired by Portia de Rossi as Veronica Palmer.

I mean, how can you watch that and not be inspired? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚  Several of the other characters have their roots in the same show. If you haven't watched Better off Ted, it's worth seeing. I don't think I outright stole any of them, but they were definitely inspiration.

Anyway, you can see a preview of the book here. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Kidnapped is back!

Kidnapped is back, and available for pre-order! 

This year is the 10th anniversary of my first novel: Kidnapped. To celebrate, it has been re-edited and gotten a brand new cover from Deranged Doctor Design. It will be released on February 14, and it's available for pre-order now.


It's a late winter night when Patricia Risden heads home in her car, on a road she's driven many times before. She doesn't have a care in the world, that is, until a man appears from nowhere, right in front of her. The next thing she knows, she's a prisoner of the unscrupulous Alliance Commander Travis 152; an intimidating man who demands information and complete cooperation.

Travis soon realizes his mistake; Tricia doesn't know anything, and she is incapable of even getting a glass of water from the ship's computer. Infamous for being a ruthless executioner, conditioned since childhood to feel nothing besides fear and pain, he still deems her harmless, and finds enough pity for the lost young woman to let her out of the cell; a decision that will change both their lives forever.


A voice from his memory echoed in his head. It was his commanding officer snarling, “Such a pathetic little creature.”

He heard a woman’s scream, one of many imprints in his brain that would never go away, and his commander’s quiet laughter. Through the commotion in his mind, he could also hear the real but muffled sound of Patricia crying on the other side of the wall.

Shaking his head made the imagined noises go away, but the weeping was still there.

Would he be able to hear it everywhere in the ship?

He turned and entered the cell again.

“Don’t do that.”

Patricia lifted her face up and sniffled, “Don’t do what?”

“The thing with your eyes.”

“I’ll stop if you take me home. I didn’t do anything.” She was trying to shout at him, but her voice cracked, and he felt an unfamiliar twinge of sympathy.

“I know. You’re really useless, aren’t you?”

He looked down at his gloved hand, flexing it, but couldn’t help seeing she was trying to dry her eyes. Probably too scared of him not to obey.

“Maybe I should just kill you. Since you’re useless.”

The threat didn’t seem to faze her, and he crouched down to be able to look into her eyes. “I can’t take you back. I’ve already reported in I’m bringing you. They’d kill us both.”

“So what? Now they’ll only kill me? Unless you do it first?”

Feisty. Admirable, but not a quality that will serve her well.

“No. You’re young and strong. You’ll be sent to some colony as labor. It could be worse.”

He rose up again and headed towards the door, and when he heard her voice call out for him this time, he did glance back over his shoulder.

“Can I have some more water?”

He surprised himself with flashing a smile.

“Figure out how to get it.”

Back on the bridge, Travis sunk down in his chair and stared straight ahead.

If she was still crying, he couldn’t hear it.


A holographic screen flickered on, showing Patricia sitting on the cell floor. He didn’t particularly want to look, but found it difficult to keep his eyes averted from the tiny, three-dimensional woman. He saw her get to her feet, approaching the wall where he got the water for her, muttering, “Figure out how to get it.”

He watched her without blinking as she made a couple of tries, finally got the terminal to appear and jumped around jubilant, displaying more energy than he could ever remember feeling.

After taking a sip, she paced around the cell, talking to herself.

“I have something now. The next time he comes in I can... I can jump him. Surprise him. He has a weapon I’m sure. I can take it and force him to take me home.”

After taking a long good look at the useless cup in her hand, she slumped and tossed it to the side. When she sunk down in a corner and started to cry again, Travis said, “Turn it off.”

The familiar voice of his computer echoed in the room.

“Why did you go down to her, Commander? You didn’t torture her.”

He looked at his hand in the black glove.

“You do your job and deal with the ship. I’ll do mine.”

Help me make it a success. Pre-order your copy now! :-) 

Weird and disturbing

I was browsing through the Kindle version of Valentin last night - and discovered sentences that don't belong in the book. At first I thought, "Am I really that incoherent? This is complete gibberish" - but it's not in my source file.

The "extra" material isn't in my Word file, but re-uploading it didn't make the sentences go away in the Kindle version. I am stumped.

I've contacted Amazon support, and it will be interesting to see what they have to say.

Hopefully this isn't a common problem: I haven't read the Kindle versions of all my books - I've just trusted that they contain the same text as the source files. Now I wonder if all of them are filled with gibberish sentences.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Courage and Retribution

Time goes by so very quickly, and 2020 is the ten-year anniversary of the first release of Kidnapped. I'm currently on the final read-through of a complete re-edit that - in my opinion - makes the story flow a lot better. It will be available soon. And this time, I mean it, lol. I even have the new cover!

Anyway, there are three short story prequels to Kidnapped, and now all three are available for the first time. Courage and Retribution will be published on February 14, 2020, and can be preordered now!

It's a short read and the Kindle version is 99 cents, or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.


On the outskirts of the ever-present Alliance’s watchful eye, William Reynolds leads a good life as preacher and mayor for a small town. He pays little attention to the iron fist that runs the galaxy, and ignores rumors of a paranoid government using violence to keep its citizens in line.

The conflict between the Alliance and its people comes uncomfortably close as a family fleeing oppression seeks refuge in William’s basement. He agrees to help them, but the Alliance is on their heels, and reaching out to the people in need proves to be more dangerous than he could ever have anticipated. Once events are set in motion, there is no going back.

The beginning:

Aaren pressed the button to call the lift and grimaced when a display lit up, telling him he would be waiting for a while.

He considered taking the emergency stairs, some exercise would do him good, but the server central was located eighteen floors below his office. Even if he could jog his way up all those steps, he didn’t want to.

He crossed his arms over his chest and averted his eyes from the reflection in the metallic doors. His temples showed signs of silver and he couldn’t escape small wrinkles forming around his eyes. Soon he’d have to resort to chemicals and surgery to live up to the Alliance’s standard on a leader.

Screw that.

He had better things to do than meddle with his face.

Being head of IT security at the Alliance’s central bank was a prestigious job - and kept him much too busy to dilly dally with insignificant details like hair and wrinkles.

When he reached the floor that held his office, he decided he deserved a cup of tea to get through the morning’s pile of routine administration. There were no doubt heaps of forms to be filed. He should get an assistant to deal with all these tedious tasks, but working closely with someone would require incessant explanations and communication.


If he did it himself, it would be done right the first time.

He usually avoided the common areas. At lunch time, the break room would be filled with chattering, gossiping hens, but at this hour it might be empty.

 Computers are so much easier to handle. Clean, logical, and easy to understand.

At first, he thought the room was deserted and exhaled with relief. Then, he spotted three people by the beverage dispenser. He recognized the all too talkative chief programmer and her assistant, but who was the third?

There shouldn’t be any new faces on his floor.

Berry was good at her job, as a programmer she almost surpassed even him, but she was oh so sociable. This was probably one of her cousins, or nieces, or other distant relatives.

Company security should not take a backseat to entertaining family.

“What’s going on here?”

Berry’s assistant winced at the curt question, but re-found his footing quickly.

“Sir, this is Jayda. She’s the new programmer.”

The girl was young, mid-twenties maybe, with cheerful eyes and her hair cut in a short bob. It was jet black, except for a bright blue stripe in her bangs. Her hair was at least two inches longer on the right than on the left.


If this was the fashion of the day, he must be getting old, indeed.


Berry giggled. He hated a woman her age giggling. It made her sound mentally challenged.

“This is Aaren. He’s our boss.”

How could the woman talk and still giggle?

Jayda didn’t look intimidated at all. She flashed a smile so sincere it made him forget to be grumpy. Luckily, his communicator beeped before he accidentally showed himself human to his subordinates.

“Sir, this is the lobby. The Supreme Commander is here to see you.”


Exactly what he needed to make the day even better.

The guard’s voice had a slight tremble, and who could blame him. With any luck at all, the informal Alliance sovereign brought her favorite killing machine along.

Hopefully, he could get them out of the building before Murder and Mayhem became annoyed and destroyed something.

Help me get it off to a great start and order yours now! :-)

Monday, January 27, 2020

Valentin - new novella available now

Valentin is a novella that has slumbered in my computer since... 2009. I never did anything with it, because it's so unlike other things I've written. It feels like 2020 is a good time to let it get out there. Who knows, someone might enjoy it.  

When Anette’s car breaks down, she knows asking her ex-boyfriend for help isn’t the best idea. Sadly, it’s still the only idea she has. She doesn’t expect the encounter to go smoothly, but she also doesn’t expect him to drop the car off with a Russian gangster. The chop shop boys don’t even bother with picking it apart for parts – they dump it in the junkyard.

Valentin Abarnikov has problems of his own, millions of dollars’ worth of them. An old lost Impala isn’t high on his list of things to deal with, but the crying woman in his garage is definitely more interesting than his business partners. It doesn’t take long until the people chasing him takes interest in her, and suddenly, finding a way out has become urgent.

It is available now. It's a quick read, but with the bedroom door a little more open than my characters usually leave it.

Monday, January 20, 2020

I have officially reached "Crazy Cat Lady" status

I never really liked the term "crazy cat lady" - I find it demeaning to both women and cats - and I definitely haven't considered myself a person in the category. Yes, my cats are a big part of my life. Yes, I work for an animal rescue organization. But, I only have two cats.

This weekend, I realized I'm wrong. I'm not just an official "Crazy Cat Lady" - I'm the "Crazy Cat Lady" of my village.

Evidence to support the statement:

I not only work at an animal rescue organization - I also volunteer for a small, local cat rescue. Actually, I'm on the board. Okay, I'm the primary signatory, but I did not found the organization.

Anyway, we had a board meeting this past weekend, at my place. In the midst of the meeting, one of the girls says, "There's a blue car outside. A man is coming this way. Is it your boyfriend?"

I'm like, "No. I'd remember if I had a boyfriend."

It turned out to be the local pizza delivery guy, and he came to see if I wanted another four cats. Or maybe five, the number wasn't completely clear.

That means, a random man I only know from his bringing pizza to my house a couple of times must have thought, "She's middle-aged and single, I bet she needs more cats."

The Crazy Cat Lady. It's me. Here's my blind cat helping me work through sleeping on my right arm. He's named Adam after Adam in the Embarkment 2577 series, they share the love for stealing croissants...

The Universe - or is it Fate - is fickle.

If someone had told me yesterday that an asteroid would collide with Earth, that we'd have a flood of Biblical proportions, or that a so...